A Sporting Dog’s Unique Nutritional Needs

Hannah Criscoe of Whistling Wings Kennels and her Boykin spaniel Wheeler
Hannah Criscoe of Whistling Wings Kennels and her Boykin spaniel Wheeler.
Sponsored Content by Eukanuba

Sporting dogs are cool. Watching a muscular English pointer carve up a field with unbridled enthusiasm is nothing short of outstanding. Labrador retrievers that hit the December water and swim against the current to make blind retrieves are equally impressive. And those English field cockers that are released as strike dogs? Their energy knows no bounds. While all of these dogs are impressive, their nutritional needs are very different.

Energy Types

Labs run in all kinds of weather and terrain.
Labs run in all kinds of weather and terrain. At the end of the day their food helps them get ready for tomorrow.

Energy comes from carbohydrates, fat and protein. Carbs supply immediate energy. Think about the short, intense activity displayed by an English field cocker or Boykin spaniel when released as a strike dog to put a covey in the air. Dogs that run for up to two hours use some carbs, but more of their energy comes from an aerobic metabolism, with the main source of energy coming from fatty acids in fat. Protein is important for building strong muscles but less important as an energy source. Protein is mostly used to aid in strengthening a dog’s body systems. The skin and coat use the most amount of protein, but the circulatory, respiratory, digestive and other systems use protein as well.

Matching Formulas to Activities

Eukanuba’s new Premium Performance diets are comprised of different amounts of carbohydrates, fats and proteins—each of which dogs with different activity levels metabolize at different rates. Premium Performance 21/13 SPRINT is high in carbohydrates, because anaerobic activities require immediate energy for short bursts of activity. It’s designed for strike dogs that bust coveys or for those that enter dock-jumping and agility competitions where the duration lasts up to three minutes at a time. Premium Performance 26/16 EXERCISE is designed for dogs that run for up to two hours at a time. It’s designed for dogs hunting moderate-size fields or accompanying owners on trail runs or hikes. The formula has an increased amount of protein, to help strengthen muscles and replenish body systems, along with an increased amount of fat for energy. Premium Performance 30/20 SPORT is ideal for dogs that run for up to four hours at a time. Whether it’s in a big field for prairie birds or an upland bird covert, the 30% protein and 20% fat combination is what handlers have come to rely on for years. The new formula includes an antioxidant cocktail, to aid in recovery from hard work. Herding and sled dogs running for more than four hours per day need extra energy. Premium Performance 30/28 WORK provides a 30% protein and 28% fat combination that offers more long-lasting energy to keep dogs performing at their peak.


Handlers and hunters look for high-quality performance from their dogs today. But they have an eye on tomorrow and the day after that as well. Even the best-conditioned dogs tire over time, and some of their fatigue comes from a buildup of free radicals, which are a normal byproduct of hard work. Large amounts of free radicals can slow the rebuilding of cells lost while running and retrieving. Antioxidants help defend against free radicals, so dogs can be ready for the next day. The Premium Performance line uses antioxidant cocktails that are combinations of three or four nutrients that provide a wide range of benefits.

Shorthairs need performance fuel to reach their peak performance. (left); Pineridge Grouse Camp's Jerry Havel depends on his string to have a successful guiding season. (right, bottom)

Optimized Digestion

Advanced nutrition means nothing, if a dog’s body can’t absorb it. Eukanuba’s Premium Performance formulas use GI health technologies to help dogs optimize nutrient absorption. Solid ingredients are precision ground and then fortified with fermentable fibers and prebiotics like beet pulp. Highly digestible ingredients help ensure nutrients are absorbed by a dog's body rather than passed through it.

The Supporting Cast

While each of the formulas varies in protein and fat, they all contain the vitamins, minerals and key nutrients necessary to support the unique needs and demands of sporting dogs. EPA and DHA help promote healthy brain function. Chondroitin and glucosamine help support joint health. Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids help support a dog’s skin and coat, which are his first lines of defense.

The next time you look at your dog making multiple blinds, running fields and snaking through coverts, think about what you’re feeding him. Proper nutrition can help elevate performance levels. So feed your dog the kibble matched to the kind of work he does.

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